With a teen and pre-teen in my house, life is pretty busy. Between school, homework, music lessons, sports teams and karate it can be hard to figure out just how to get through our complicated weeks, let alone fit any skiing in. This is true even though we all love and cherish our ski days and are happy every single time we go. Ski vacations are joy-filled, regret-free zones. Who doesn’t want more of that in their lives?
As a result, I’ve become something of a family ski vacation ninja, making time for this important family activity even where no time exists. And today I’m going to share just how I do it.
Here are my top tips for fitting skiing in to my family’s busy calendar.
Get your calendar updated well before it snows
I live and die by my family’s Google calendar and so as soon as I get the school-year calendar and the schedule of games/sporting events/recitals/rehearsals and whatever else is going on in my kids’ lives I’m sure to enter those dates. And then, even though it may only be September with snow just a glint in my eye, I go in and look for those magical weekends and holidays when there’s nothing critical going on and tag them as potential skiing weekends so that my husband can put them in his work calendar too. I find that thinking ahead gives me the greatest flexibility. Do we always end up going to the mountains on those dates? No. But having them marked for ski vacations makes it much more likely that they will happen, especially if the snow is good.
Keep your eye on the forecast
Vermont has a longer ski season than many people think it does. My family has skied at Thanksgiving and over spring break in April. Don’t assume that your only options are from Christmas through the end of February. Look for long weekends, in November, March, April, even the beginning of December. My kids’ school always seems to have a few days off right after Thanksgiving – the only possible reason for this can be that they want us to ski, right? Late November/early December and late February/early March are between times for many school sports as well, making it easy for student athletes to get some time on the slopes.
Divide and conquer
Sometimes you may not all be able to ski – but that doesn’t mean none of you can ski. Our school had a Friday off during the first week of March in 2016 and we had planned a southern Vermont ski trip on what turned out to be the day when my older son (then 13) had tryouts for the middle school baseball team. We arranged with friends to have him stay while the rest of us headed north. I would have loved for him to be able to join us, but it seemed silly for all of us to sacrifice our skiing time for a scheduling conflict that only involved him.
A weekend is worth it
We live pretty far away from Vermont in Delaware. To get there, we have to drive through some of the worst traffic on the I-95 corridor, namely the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike. But as my kids have gotten older and more flexible about sleep and pretty much everything else I’ve learned that we can brave that traffic, pack sandwiches and hit the road after school on Friday, arriving late in the evening. Sure, we don’t always make it to the lift for the first chair, but we pretty much always get a full day of skiing in on Saturday and Sunday before heading home. The fresh air keeps the boys nice and perked up to do their homework on the way back.
And one last tip that I’m not going to bold because it is a little bold – know your school’s attendance policy. It is possible that my family has “gotten stuck” in Vermont because of weather (as in, our skis got stuck in all that sweet, sweet snow) and had to call in an occasional hooky day. I’ve also deliberately planned ski trips for days when I know I’ll be pulling the boys out of school. Obviously not everyone is comfortable with that notion, but my policy is that an occasional unexcused absence is OK if I haven’t gotten close to the school’s maximum number or if it’s not interfering with tests, projects or extracurricular commitments. I’ve heard the argument that ski trips aren’t educational and therefore don’t justify missed school but in my opinion fresh air, exercise and loads of family time are things I value as much as the things that are going on in my kids’ classrooms. (If you’re curious to see more about my policy on missing school for travel, I wrote an entire post on this very topic over on my family travel blog.)
How do you fit a family ski vacation into your calendar?
Comment below or share with us on our Facebook page!
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.